Partners Fear Verizon's Reported Interest in CBS Will 'Distract' Carrier From Core Services

Media giants CBS and Viacom are no longer merging, and Verizon Communications might be the next suitor in line for CBS, according to reports from the New York Post and CNBC.

If Verizon were to bid for CBS, the media content deal would mirror AT&T's $85.4 billion bid for media giant Time Warner, Verizon partners said.

"This looks like a 'me-too' play since AT&T is going after Time Warner and Comcast has NBCUniversal. Content is viewed as so much more valuable right now than the infrastructure," said Adam Edwards, co-founder and CEO of Sandy, Utah-based master agent Telarus.

[Related: Solution Providers: As Carriers Stop Being 'Dumb Pipe' Providers, The Smart Move For Partners Is To Add Value]

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CBS' stock jumped 2.7 percent Monday morning after the New York Post reported that Verizon was "poking around" CBS, potentially for a buyout.

A Verizon spokesperson declined CRN's request for comment on the CBS bid speculation.

While a CBS bid would be viewed as a competitive move against Dallas-based rival AT&T's proposed acquisition, Verizon already has entered the mobile media and content space. Basking Ridge, N.J.-based Verizon bought media provider AOL for $4.4 billion in 2015. The carrier also has a deal on the table for internet content provider Yahoo for $4.8 billion.

A CBS purchase would give Verizon access to the broadcasting and entertainment industry as the telecom and media industries start to consolidate.

Every company is in play right now, and the telecom giants are working hard to compete against one another, said Vince Bradley, CEO of Malibu, Calif.-based World Telecom Group (WTG), a master agent and Verizon partner.

"It's strategic and could be an interesting move," Bradley said. "My concern is always around whether they can do anything with it because you do see acquisitions where companies don't do anything for a while, and then the assets become less relevant."

Some partners are concerned that these consumer-focused acquisitions could divert carriers away from their core offerings and business services, Bradley said.

"There is a concern out there that the carriers are taking on too much," WTG's Bradley said.

Telarus' Edwards agreed, saying that he hopes these content-related acquisitions don't become a distraction.

"From the partner perspective, this is the shiny new toy right now, but the infrastructure still has value, and that's where [partners] play," he said.

The merger between Viacom and CBS fell through Monday after the companies were unable to come to an agreement on valuation. Viacom will continue as an independent company for the time being, under the leadership of longtime Viacom executive and newly named President and CEO Robert Bakish.

Both CBS and Viacom are owned by Sumner Redstone, who started the combined $40 billion entertainment empire, and his daughter and current vice chairwoman of Viacom’s board, Shari Redstone.

"Over the past few months, after careful assessment and meetings with the leadership of both companies, we have concluded that this is not the right time to merge the companies," the Redstones said in a statement.